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TechnicalitiesMarch 25, 2005

I've got some questions, yo. These are about spinning, so if your eyes glaze over, scroll to the bottom where I'll post a picture of something. Not sure what yet. Oooh! A surprise! Even to me!

So: Dear Janine taught me the long-draw method, using the folded over bunch of staple-length fiber held like an egg in my hand. I've been doing it like this: Pulling out five or ten such little bundles and lining them up on the couch, grabbing them as I go. It works well, even though as yet I'm only able to make a consistent worsted-weight-thickness single. I can't seem to go any lighter-weight than this, which kind of precludes any kind of plying, since with my gauge, I could never work with bulky weight yarn. I'd get 3 stitches per football field or something.

And somehow, even though this is quite silly, I have a yen to hold the whole mess of top in my lap and spin right off it. I see that the Yarn Harlot (let me just say that she is my hero. Yours too. I know) has a fab tutorial that somehow I missed because I wasn't spinning and must have glazed right through, as you're doing if you don't spin. (I'm telling you, skip to the bottom.) Her method seems brilliant. And she explains it well: If you do it this way, you get good yarn. But but but... But. I'm whiny. That seems like so much WORK. But I'm planning on trying it. Maybe this afternoon. I should totally go for a run, but the wheel is sitting there, calling me with its siren songs, daring me to crash on the slubby rocks.

Okay, this: How do you spin? What's your fave method? The more descriptive you are, the more I'll gape in admiration and appreciation. Fave links? I've been to Joy of Handspinning, and I know I need to buy Spin Off mag (anyone in the Bay Area have any old copies they'd like to offload or lend?). What's your favorite trick? In other words: HELP!

Thanks. So here you go:

(This actually means I leave this page and go to my picture file and decide which old photo to lay on you today, since I ain't got nothin' new.)

(I'm back. And you lucked out -- I took it way back, to last May when I was back east.)

Tulips in Central Park:


Bethany in Central Park:


Em (in Rosedale), Cari, Sadie, and Diego. I *love* this shot. Alison was there in spirit that night, too.


And finally, me wigging out at the Happiest Place on Earth, MDSW:


Don't forget to stock up on Cadbury Creme Eggs this weekend! And on Monday, when they go on sale! Unless you live in Oakland, of course. Then you're totally not allowed to buy more than three. I've got needs.

Happy weekend!


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I'm a new spinner but I'll tell you what's worked best for me so far. Take roving, split it, split it again. Then pre-draft a length. Then when I'm spinning (I use more of inch-worm technique) I try to keep in rhythm. Like for each draw of my hands I count out "one, two, three" as I treadle. That's given me my most consistent spinning so far.

I also have found several spinning videos from the library that are really helpful.

How do I spin? It depends on what I want to use the yarn for.

I tend to like a worsted type yarn (not a lot of fuzzies coming off it) vs. a woolen type (lots of fuzzies).

I start off with top since it's combed and all the fibers tend to be heading in the right direction(this helps for the less frizzy type yarn). If it's a thick strand, I might separate it into more manageable strips. I usually pull it a bit lengthwise to sort of loosen up the fibers(think lofty cotton candy). I draft with my right hand and then smooth it with my left hand. Depending on the thickness of my desired outcome is how I spin it. I keep samples hanging around to refer back to so I can be consistant (sometimes this is a dream though(-:)I tend to do a shortish draw vs a long draw due to not wanting a fuzzy yarn.

Awe heck, I'll post pictures on my blog for you but wait till tomorrow (3/26/05).

Just find the way YOU like to do it. It's very individual and you will always hear from different spinners what "the best way to spin" is. BTW, the best way is your own way.

I have no advice on spinning, and yes, I did glaze over and scroll down.

Those tulips are freakin' gorgeous! I love tulips, they're a very happy flower, aren't they?

OK, you're spinning from the fold, it sounds like. I have never mastered that, and I am Not An Expert Spinner, but I think that the Yarn Harlot is onto something. When you split the roving and pre-draft, you will get finer yarn, and the actuall spinning will go faster. Spend the lime pre drafting admiring the colors- it's sort of fore play for the spinning, OK? And, uhm, yeah, I have a pretty extensive collection of Spin Off back issues. But I only lend them to people who wear uniforms. ANd, back off from the eggs in Alameda- ever frozen one to keep from eating it, and eaten it any way? Most eggcellent. Also, the bunnies at See's will be on sale Monday. The only time of year that See's goes on sale. Ahem

This is what works for me. Give it a try and see if it clicks for you. This approach is a bit different from the way I've heard some teachers explain tension and grist, and may seem backwards, but it's the way I experience it when I'm spinning.

One thing to try if you want thinner yarn is to loosen the tension so it pulls in a little bit less. Make adjustments in tension in very small increments- on most wheels tension is pretty sensitive. Don't focus so much on trying to draft out less fiber....the idea is that you want the amount of fiber you draft out to be exactly the amount to keep up with the twist and tension. The lower the tension, the less it pulls on, and the less fiber you need to draft out to keep up with it.

I've found that if you get a feel for using the tension to help guide your yarn grist, it makes a HUGE difference. For me, that way of viewing the relationship of drafting and tension was the key to spinning better and having more control over what kind of yarn I want to spin.

If you start getting too much twist building up as is usual when first learning to spin (getting those corkscrew curlies before you feed on), you either want to draft out less fiber- again, to just keep up with the tension, or you increase the tension because too much twist builds up when the amount of fiber is too much for that tension.

Increase tension=thicker yarn
(because the more tension, the more fiber you draft to keep it going onto the wheel at the right rate)

Decrease tension= thinner yarn
(the less tension, the less fiber you draft out to keep from getting too much twist built up before you feed it on)

And if I may suggest, if you go to Maryland, I HIGHLY recommend taking a class from Judith Mackenzie- she's teaching this year again, and she's an amazing teacher. I learned this approach from her, and it changed my whole relationship with my wheel. Saturday afternoon she is teaching about spinning fine yarns- definitely worth trying to get into this class. http://www.sheepandwool.org/events/workshops.htm

And don't tell the spinning police, but I don't usually split roving or top unless it's compacted and doesn't draft easily. I didn't even know you were supposed to do that when I first started spinning. What I find is that if I have the tension set up right, and the fiber is already nicely prepared, I don't need to. Try skipping the predrafting and see if you like what you get. If your yarn is lumpy and the fiber is not drafting smoothly, you may want to predraft. But it's not set in stone- depends on whether you are getting what you want from the fiber :)

I skipped to the bottom (what, you expect a Manhattan apartment to have room for spinning and my shoes, let alone the yarn that tolerates me living here...), only to find you taunting me about the dearth of Creme Eggs in my part of the blogosphere. *Sigh*

Picture this:...(Norma reading, 10:44 p.m.) "three stitches per football field." ROFLMAO. Crack.Up. Thunk. Pickmeupfromthefloorplease.

Lots of good advice here. Keep in mind, there is no wrong way. If its yarn at the end of it, you are spinning right.

Play with it. Grab a handful of fluff, lay it over the leader, give the wheel a few twirls and try different ways of pulling the fiber into yarn. I happen to hold the fiber supply in my right hand, use my left hand more towards the wheel to control twist, and I pull back the fiber supply.

Honestly, I'll spin with the whole batt in my hands, but its probably lots easier to start to split it into thinner strips.

That was rambling. Sorry. Spin on dude!

Babe, go with the Harlot, especially with the space-dyed wonderfulness. I started with a spindle and this method works best for me. I also use a pretty short draw, holding the fibre with my left hand and allowing the twist in/smoothing with my right.
And, as always, go with the Harlot.

Oh, and fibre prep is exactly like foreplay!!

that last picture of your face totally made my Easter, Cadbury eggs or no.

Don't know much about spinning but loooove the tulips!!! And I want to know exactly what it is that you're petting there at MDSW!

I agree with Leslie - pre-drafting is fiber fore-play. And if you're working from a rainbow dyed roving, pre-drafting allows you to experiment quite a bit with the colors.

Here are the other things I like about pre-drafting:

- I get a preview of what the fiber is like. Is it course, wavy, smooth?

- Pre-drafting makes the actual drafting while spinning easier. Easier drafting for me, equals better control over the singles that I'm *trying* to produce. (I'm still such a novice, that I rarely get what I was planning on, but I spin with ~some~ confidence that I could spin a thicker or thinner single and my pre-drafted roving would work with me)

- those little pre-drafted fibers look pretty (Adrian takes the coolest pictures of hers! http://www.helloyarn.com/2005/01/gnomey-pattern-flat-view-bulky-weight.html )

The tulips are so pretty!

Um, Rachael, want to come visit me over in Marin? I can answer all your questions and teach you the full array of techniques. Bring the Ashford and whatever fiber you're planning to spin, too, if you'd like, or you can use my electric and dig in my fiber bins. My Spin-Offs don't leave home but I've got over twenty years' worth here if you wanna lounge on the deck and peruse. Lots of spinning books and samples, too. Email me?

great pics and cadbury egg restrictions? man, i didn't know that were in that type of demand!

I'm not a spinner, but I've wanted to be one for around a year now, so I still read the spinning stuff. I figure, the more I know ahead of time, the easier it -might- be. -Might-, I say, 'cos you never know what it's gonna be like 'til ya do it. But you know that. Anyway, I digress.

Hee! I live on the entirely -other- coast from you, so that means I can hoard all the Cadbury Eggs that my lil' heart desires! If need be, I can always stock up double and send you some if the eggstash runs too low. ;)

Great pictures, by the way -- oh, and since I didn't say this before, congrats on the wheel and learning how to spin! :D

I'm relatively new to spinning, too. I've had the most success (such as it is) spinning 'over the fold,' which is what it sounds like you're doing, too. I know you don't want to hear this, but I think you just need to keep practicing and you'll find that you get the feel for adjusting the thickness. The good news, of course, is that practicing = spinning = fun! ;-)

A couple of quasi-local resources for you, though:
- West Valley Alpacas (http:www.westvalleyalpacas.com) in Esparto (which is somewhere near Sacto) offers spinning classes - they have an intermediate spinning class on April 16th. And they'll let you rent on of their wheels if you haven't bought on by then.
- Have you gone to Carolina Homespun (http://www.carolinahomespun.com) in SF? She sells wheels and is just a great, knowledgeable (and friendly!) resource. She hosts a first Mondays open spinning night, too.

Spin on .... CM

skipped the whole post. thanks for the pics at the end though. i'm totally afraid to pick up spinning.....

Here's another spinning vid resource you may be interested in: http://www.icanspin.com/toc.htm

I wasn't sure what to call how I spin, but from what I've seen, it's a variation of inchworm (according to the above site, the inchworm technique is AKA "fingered twist" technique which sounds very naughty & fun)meets the long-draw. I pinch to regulate twist, but I draft way back. Which is to say, I pinch where the twist has gone up to, then pull my other hand back away from it letting the trapped fibers in my pinching hand pull out the wool. My drafting hand is fairly relaxed and the drafting zone is about a foot, so I guess it's a footworm, not inch. But almost at the same time my pinching hand is sliding toward the source letting the twist on & regulating it and my hands move toward the orifice feeding it in, so I guess there's a bit of the worsted technique in there too.

It's a rhythm, and not something well explained in words, that much is now clear.

When spinning where I don't care about colour distribution and I'm feeling kind of devil-may-care, I use the Navajo-style, which is fun but a little less consistent for me.

When I'm spinning a variegated coloured roving I either do a variation of the fluff & stretch (hey, naughty sounding words abound here) recommended by the YH, or separate the colour sections and split lengthwise for drafting either following the colour order or creating a new variation, or split much, much larger sections into lengthwise pieces, the thickness of which depends on how long I want the colour lengths to be, the thickness of the yarn. The last one creates shorter lengths in the colour distribution. The second one has the option of mixing and matching lengths and distribution. The first can create big blocks of colours, depending on the garment and knit technique.

This is one reason why I love spinning so much: because given one thing, there are endless variations and none of them wrong --unless of course you have a very specific idea of a desired end result, so I guess this assertion puts me in the category of "don't expect anything and you won't be disappointed" people, which isn't quite accurate... Serendipity! That's my watchword, when it comes to spinning and dyeing.

I think serendipity is just the hippy-go-lucky way of saying "spaaztic but happy."

I had no idea Bethany was so short!

I don't spin, but yet I read it all anyway. Don't know why.

Anyway. I will leave all the creme eggs in Oakland for you, m'dear. I had a dozen of the minis, just finished yesterday, and that's plenty for me. In fact I will be going to Long's this afternoon, and I know I'll be tempted, but I will remember your plea.

Ok, I like the previous comment about tension. I find that it makes a HUGE difference. Other than that, I tend to put a huge pile of carded wool off to my right side and then pinch and draft much the way spaazilicous describes. The less fleece you pinch and draw out, the finer the resulting yarn. It's totally a rhythm thing and something you will just pick up. Be patient and practice. It'll all come together in time.

Who loves the chocolate? Rachael loves the chocolate!

W. :)


You bet I was there in spirit! And those tulips are gorgeous -- I can't wait for spring flowers. And post-Easter chocolate sales!

The Chronicle had an article about hand spinners today, I'll clip it and bring it to you. Also, just had to say that the photo of you at MDSW, cracked me up. And then even more so when I thought "Hey if that goat wasn't there Rachael would be feeling up that woman with that LOOK on her face." I don't know, maybe I'm twelve.

(Not a spinner but...) Do you know of Carolina Homespun? http://www.carolinahomespun.com/index.html

If I am correct, there is one time slot (probably an early pm) that there's an informal how to weave hour? The location is not central SF but if you ever have a few spare hours?...

Let us all know how the spinning goes.

Use skinnier nests of roving and draft them before you spin. (Wench! Took me two years to get past thick and thin super bulky!)

Yea to predrafting. It took me way too long to realize that doing that makes the actual spinning so much more zen. (Actually, I only just realized this 3 weeks ago!) Anyway, just the predrafting can get sort of zenny. I start out complaining about having to do it, but then end up in some sort of introspective zone. I like to draft it down pencil-thin and then spin it worsted. And my yarn from roving is much more even now. Spinning goes much faster. Totally worth it.

I'm a spinner in Redwood City, but I use the term spinner loosely. I have only learned through online videos, so I don't actually think my technique is all that good. I've been meaning to take a class at carolina homespun, she offers them, and you can find info about that on her webpage. There's also the Black Sheep Guild that is the local spinning/weaving chapter I think. I haven't been, but I hear it's wonderful and people can learn alot, and meet a lot of other spinners.

Happy Weekend to you too Rachael. Are you going to Md again?

My spinning teacher had the most encouraging thing to say about my thick and thin 3-ply...if I wanted perfect yarn, I would just buy it.
That said, I don't know what my technique is. I was forbidden from reading books on technique when first learning, so that I would get the feel of the fiber. Here are some things that I found helpful though:
Play with your fiber before spinning. Just kind of muddle a bit in your hands, to get the feel of it - staple length, crimp, fineness etc.
If you're having trouble with drafting, use some greasy, or even just plain dirty, locks. Flick card them a bit and go - it'll be ridiculously hard, but once you can do it with dirty fleece, clean merino or alpaca will feel like water through your hands.
I vary short, long, from the fold depending on the fiber and the phase of the moon - whatever feels best.
Try treadling faster, or slower, and see if that helps. The entry re. tension would be great to try as well.
Mostly, just go with what feels right. There is plenty of time to deal with wpi and grist and tension...learn the feel of the fiber, and enjoy!

It's too early in the AM for to put words together on how I spin. But let me say that predrafting is very important. I did a tutorial on that last year.
icanspin.com is really helpful learning the drop spindle.
Yahoo has several groups that can be helpful. Spindlers and handspinning (depending on weather you are working on the wheel or spindle)
Finally I have a book recommendation for spindles. "spindle Spinning" by Connie Delaney. It was recommended to me by a friend and I've only breezed through it but it looks to hold a lot of information and I plan to use it to learn to use a navajo spindle.

Oh, spinning!!!! When you lose your mind and get around to spinning cotton, give me a buzz. I love spinning cotton. Only I spin mine lace weight, something to do with a mental imbalance, or so I am told.

Seriously, glad you have picked up a wheel. Of all the things that I do, spinning is the most relaxing. However, I am not a technical spinner. I am saving that for my next life. Right now, I am just happy when I can sit and spin and don't worry too much about what comes out. I will use it somewhere.

I'm learning. I do a lot of pre-drafting, mainly b/c I don't have carders, drum or otherwise yet, so I am totally dependent on the quality of the batt I'm using.

I have learned this first principle: If one likes squeezing balls (of yarn), one will like pre-drafting and prep for spinning. It's all about getting those hands on great fiber. It's primal and glorious.

Well, I spin on a drop spindle and I spin like a mad woman (fast). My favorite way is the pure wollen technique, wherein I take my hard carded rolags (yes, I like to wash and card my own fleece before I spin). Then I use a long draw. It's really hard to describe, but it looks like you are just pulling the yarn out of the rolag without doing much. Once you have extablished the size of the yarn it's pretty much self regulating.
I don't do the exhaustive prep the the Harlot describes, but I do seperate and fluff the roving for worsted spinning. I also like to spin from the fold, as you're doing, which is a semi worsted technique, and sometimes I like the plain old inchworm worsted technique.

Oh, crap, I just love to spin. Too bad I keep stepping on my spindles.

This will all obviously change when I get a wheel.

i got a few back issues of spin off and accidently ordered two of one issue. i'd be happy to send you the duplicate if you send me your addy!

When I first started spinning I found Elaine Benfatto's website urbanspinner.com very helpful for resources, etc. I also used Hands On Spinning by Lee Raven, good directions and pictures. The local spinning guild might be fun and a place for you learn from other spinners - Spindles & Flyers, who meet in El Cerrito monthly. (www.spindelsandflyers.org) - I think that is their website. You can go to cnch.org the northern CA organization for spinners/weavers to link to guilds. I also don't want to give up my Spin Off magazine, but if you go to urbanspinner.com, there is a link to a used spinning equipment/books site that often posts used magazines, and part of the proceeds go to support a music program for children in Vermont, where the site maintainer lives. Spinning is addictive - beware. I have more fiber than I know what to do with.... you'd be welcome to a sample if you'd like to experiment.

I was APPALLED that my local CVS hasn't put their Easter candy on sale. Since Modern American Retailing demands that Easter candy appear by February 15 at the latest, those hollow chocolate bunnies have been hanging out for over a month and a half, and they're full price! I had a hollow chocolate bunny hankering, but only for a half-price hollow chocolate bunny.

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Rachael loves it when book clubs read her work! She's happy to attend book clubs that read her books either in person or via Skype. Contact her at rachael@rachaelherron.com to make arrangements.


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